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How Anne Hill Promotes a Growth Mindset Amongst Students

“We want them to come to school and be happy!” Anne Hill says of the students who attend her namesake primary school.

Developing well-rounded, globally-minded, lifelong learners is at the core of Anne Hill International Primary School’s vision. More than just high test scores or academic achievements for big-name universities, the school strives to develop students who are lifelong learners and excited to motivate themselves beyond the classroom walls. 

Despite its prevalence as an appealing slogan, few can explain how to make someone a “lifelong learner.” Saigoneer recently spoke with Brendan Hearne, Head of Primary, and Anne Hill herself to learn more about the growth mindset that is essential for people who value the pursuit of new skills and knowledge long after their formal education ends.

Instead of “I can’t do it,” saying “I can’t do it yet” represents a critical shift in thinking that lies at the core of a growth mindset, Mr. Brendan said. Being a lifelong learner involves understanding that skills and abilities are not fixed. Once a studenty  realizes that almost any task is achievable, they can better adopt the habits and perspectives needed to succeed. At a workshop titled “Nurturing a Growth Mindset,” Mr. Brendan explained to Anne Hill parents that people with growth mindsets, as opposed to fixed mindsets, value and respond proactively to feedback, recognize that making mistakes is a crucial part of learning and that effort produces positive results. 

Rather than overtly discuss these elements of a growth mindset with students, the Anne Hill staff fosters the beliefs via their regular lessons and in the ways they interact with students. For example, they encourage students to see effort not simply as a matter of time and speed, but dependent on the concept of "don't stop until you are proud." Teachers frequently give feedback to students so they can identify their successes, and also the areas they can continue to improve on, supported by student-created learning goals that help instill personal motivation. 

In addition to promoting a growth mindset via activities and interactions, teachers serve as important role models. For example, teachers may share stories of instances where they failed or made a mistake when pursuing a skill and explain to students how they eventually succeeded. Similarly, teachers often ask students their thoughts about what they liked or didn’t like in a class period, or what is or is not helpful, which reinforces the idea that everyone should seek and respond to feedback.

“We’re in the business of trust,” Mr. Brendan says regarding the school’s relationship with families. Families must not only trust that students are safe while at school, but that their values align with the school’s. They must share the opinion that educators should aim to develop well-rounded individuals that are able to contribute to their communities. The Anne Hill staff thus makes great effort to connect with students and their families through formal parent-teacher meetings, webinars and events, as well as informal opportunities to get to know one another better. Close relationships make collaborating on the development of growth mindsets much easier. 

Ms. Hill says that parents play the largest role in their child’s development, and they can often benefit from learning what they can do to help their children have growth mindsets. Avoid dishonest praise and instead offer compliments related to effort and resilience; offer safe spaces where mistakes are encouraged; don’t apply labels belonging to any particular category to children, but instead allow them to explore and change their identities; set examples and refrain from comparing children to siblings or classmates: these are all important actions a parent can perform so students begin “learning to think and thinking to learn.”

“What type of person do you want your child to be after graduation?” Mr. Brendan says this is what parents should be asking themselves when looking for a school for their children. Anne Hill International School works to produce graduates that are excited and motivated to learn. They can use their skills and abilities to cultivate good for themselves and those around them. A growth mindset is a critical characteristic of such a person.

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